Having a child ought to be an exciting time in your life. Perhaps you have been trying to get pregnant for a while, and now that you are, you can't wait to meet the newest addition to your family. However, it appears that people at work are treating you differently now and may even express concerns that you can't adequately perform your job duties due to your pregnancy.
The situation may get even worse if you experience complications that require you to take a temporary leave of absence during your pregnancy. When it comes time to give birth, you could face further discriminatory actions. You may wonder if your employer can treat you differently because of your pregnancy. The answer is a resounding, "No!"
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act as an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act prohibits your employer from treating you differently because of your pregnancy, any pregnancy-related medical conditions or childbirth. You have the same right to work as anyone else for as long as your pregnancy allows you to do so.
As long as you are capable of performing the major duties as described in your job description, your employer cannot keep you from doing so. If you are job hunting, a prospective employer may not use your pregnancy as a reason not to hire you either. As long as you meet the qualifications for the position, the act entitles you to the same opportunities as anyone else.
You cannot predict how your body will react to your pregnancy. You could experience complications that keep you from working for a while. Your employer must treat you as any other employee who experiences a temporary disability. Your employer must offer you one or more of the following that it would offer to any other temporarily disabled employee:
- Leave without pay
- Alternative assignments
- Disability leave
- Light duty
- Modified tasks
As long as providing you these accommodations does not present an undue hardship on your employer, you are entitled to them.
Your health insurance coverage
Your employer must cover your pregnancy-related medical expenses just as it would any other medical condition from any other employee. The only caveat is that if you were pregnant prior to being hired, it may fall under an exclusion for a pre-existing condition. Moreover, your health insurance coverage may not extend to abortions. Your employer or the insurance company may not require you to pay a higher deductible due to your pregnancy.
Taking time off after your child's birth
When an employee becomes temporarily disabled, an employer is required to hold open a position for that person's return. You deserve the same consideration when you suffer pregnancy-related complications or after the birth of your child. In addition, you may apply for unpaid leave up to 12 weeks during a calendar year under the Family and Medical Leave Act. In order to qualify for FMLA leave, you must have worked for your employer a minimum of 12 months, and your employer must have a minimum amount of employees.
If your employer fails to comply with the act
If you experience discrimination from your employer because you're pregnant, you have the right to file a complaint. If you are unsure whether your employer's actions violate the act or need advice and assistance in filing a claim, you may benefit from discussing your situation with an experienced legal advocate here in West Palm Beach.